Metropolitan Police Chief Resigns

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The phone hacking scandal has led to a spate of resignations from top executives, comes another big blow.

Sir Paul Stephenson, Metropolitan Chief Commissioner, quit over criticism of his links to a former News of the World deputy editor.

The head of Scotland Yard tendered his resignation over his relationship with Neil Wallis, who was arrested last week. The resignation followed the arrest of Rebekah Brooks, the former top editor of the paper, by several hours.

Sir Paul’s decision to step down was met with a combination of tributes and calls for further action as the hacking scandal widens.

He joins a growing list of victims of the controversy, including ex-Downing Street communications chief Andy Coulson, former News International (NI) chief executive Rebekah Brooks and News Corp veteran Les Hinton – as well as the now defunct News of the World (NOTW).

Wallis, a former editor at News Internationals News of the World Sunday paper, was arrested July 14 on suspicion of conspiring to intercept phone calls. He had also worked as a paid communications consultant for the police in 2009 and 2010, the police said on the day of his arrest.

‘Finest officer’

Sir Paul, given a knighthood in 2008, in the Queens Birthday Honours List, became Britains top policeman in 2009, as the commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Service.

He was tested soon into his appointment with the G20 protests in April, during which newspaper seller Ian Tomlinson died.

Speaking on the resignation, several senior colleagues commented on the announcement.

Sir Hugh Orde, president of the Association of Chief Police Officers, said: Ive known Sir Paul since 1982 and he is one of the finest officers I have worked with. Throughout his time in the service, Sir Paul made an outstanding contribution to national policing.

Peter Smyth, chair of the Met Police Federation, added: I think it is a sad day for Paul and a sad day for the Metropolitan Police.

In December 2010 Sir Paul had an operation to remove a pre-cancerous tumour from his leg, which resulted in a fracture. While recovering he spent 20 days at a Champneys health spa, costing 12,000. The PR consultant who looked after the spa chain was Mr. Wallis.

Foreseen step

This resignation did not come as a surprise to many, as the scandal spread its roots and caught several in its web, and so naturally any associations of individuals with those concerned with News Corp. come under the radar.

In a statement, Sir Paul said he was resigning with his integrity intact but admitted his links to Mr Wallis could hamper Scotland Yard’s investigation into phone hacking, as well as preparations for the Olympics.

The Commissioner had been criticised after Mr Wallis was hired by the Met in a public relations role.

But his resignation statement appeared to take a parting shot at the Prime Minister – he said that unlike former NOTW editor Mr Coulson – a friend of David Cameron – Mr Wallis had never resigned from the paper and was not associated with the original phone-hacking investigation.

He said: “The heroism and bravery of Met officers is in danger of being eclipsed by the ongoing debate about relationships between senior officers and the media.

He also denied there had been any wrongdoing relating to his use of the Champneys health farm, where Mr Wallis had been working in a PR role.

Sir Paul had also faced criticism over the original investigation into phone hacking in 2006 but said he had no involvement in that probe – and had no reason to suspect the scale of the allegations would widen to include the likes of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler.

In other developments, Mrs Brooks wasreleased on bailafter being arrested in connection with phone hacking and corruption allegations just two days after quitting as NI’s chief executive.

‘Brave decision’

Speaking about Sir Paul’s resignation, Mark Lewis, solicitor for the family of Milly Dowler, whose phone was allegedly hacked, told Sky News it was a “significant day”.

He said: “These are very important times, the public are standing up to the three Ps – press, politics and the police.”

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said Sir Paul had taken a “brave and honourable decision” and his “operational pedigree is without question”.

Keith Vaz, the chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee, said he was “very shocked” by the resignation.

Sir Paul is expected to be quizzed by the committee on Tuesday.

It is thought his deputy, Tim Godwin, will head the Met until a formal replacement is confirmed.

The scandal has forced News Corp. ChairmanRupert Murdochthis month to close the 168-year old tabloid, and cancel a bid to take control ofBritish Sky Broadcasting Group Plc (BSY).

Sources: news.sky, Bloomberg, mirror

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